As Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft moved past the first few picks of the second round, Dylan Tucker-Gangnes started hoping he wouldn’t hear his name.
A central defender from the University of Washington, Tucker-Gangnes knew the Portland Timbers had the 34th overall pick, and he knew he wanted to become a Timber.
“It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster being still on the board,” Tucker-Gangnes said of watching the draft from his family’s home in Bainbridge. “But I was just crossing my fingers hoping I wouldn’t be picked by someone ahead of Portland.”
His wish came true when the Timbers used their selection — acquired by trading forward Mike Fucito to San Jose earlier Thursday — to select Tucker-Gangnes.
“I was just very happy and relieved,” he said. “Just very, very thrilled to be going to Portland.”
Waiting for Portland’s turn to draft was as difficult for new Timbers head coach Porter as it was for Tucker-Gangnes.
“Waiting until the 34th pick was a bit gut-renching, but we’re very happy,” Porter said.
Porter said Tucker-Gangnes was one of four players the team saw as potential good value picks late in the second round.
“He fits a need that we had. He will provide depth in the center back position and he fits our style,” Porter said.
Tucker-Gangnes offers soccer savvy and strong ball skills at the center back position, the coach said.
“He’s a player that can play out of the back. His passing range is very good,” Porter said.
Tucker-Gangnes played for the Timbers under-23 team two summers ago. At that time he was just learning to play as a central defender. He was recruited to Washington as a central midfielder, and as a freshman played forward alongside Camas graduate Brent Richards because that was a thin position on the Huskies roster.
After redshirting the 2009 season with a back injury, Tucker-Gangnes played mostly in midfield for the Huskies in 2010. He continued to grow — he is now 6-3, 190 pounds, three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than when he arrived at UW — size that makes him a good fit at center back.
“The game came very naturally there,” Tucker-Gangnes said of his summer playing in the middle of the Timbers U-23s defense. “It seemed like I had a lot of time and space on the ball.”
Though he was a first-team Pac-12 selection and first-team All Far West honoree after his senior season at Washington, Tucker-Gangnes said he was probably a bit of an unknown when he arrived at the MLS Combine last weekend at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
He said he felt he performed well during the four-day evaluation and that he had some indication that the Timbers were interested in him.
Richards, who is entering his second season with the Timbers, was also thrilled with how the draft played out for his friend.
“I’m super excited about it,” Richards said.
Richards described Tucker-Gangnes as “a real smart player. He’s a big guy he never loses a battle in the air.”
Two former Portland Timbers U-23 players were selected in the first round of the SuperDraft. Forward Erik Hurtado, from Beaverton, Ore., was selected No. 5 overall by Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Forward Emery Welshman, who played at Oregon State, was picked No. 16 overall by Toronto FC.